The latest Content Marketing Trends report from the Content Marketing Institute stated that 88% of B2B organizations are using content marketing, yet only 30% of them think it's effective.
Some marketers believe that producing content for B2B industries is difficult and that B2C marketing is easy. I don't agree. They're just different.
And yet, they share one key similarity: regardless of what you're marketing or who you're marketing it to, you're always marketing to a person. All you need to do is find a way to reach that person.
Here are three effective tips for reaching B2B customers using content marketing.
1. Involve Industry Experts
There are many benefits to featuring experts in your content - or, better yet - getting them involved in its production.
The idea is to get well-known names in your industry to contribute to your content. This could mean asking them to provide a quote, interviewing them, or even persuading them to write a guest post for you.
Most of the time, getting industry experts on board is as simple as asking. Just remember that it's generally easier to get a "yes" from someone if your ask is very small.
So how do you ask someone to contribute to your content?
Email is your safest bet. However, it really helps to get on your prospect's radar first by interacting with them on social media or by commenting on their content. Tools like Buzzsumo can help you identify and connect with the right people in your industry.
Another excellent way to get contributors for your content is through a service called HARO. HARO stands for "Help a Reporter Out," and it's essentially a tool designed to help journalists find sources for articles.
It's a great way to gather original quotes for content, although not everyone who responds will necessarily be an "expert." I can't sing HARO's praises enough, but you'll get the best results if you make the first move and reach out to experts yourself.
If you can't secure an original contribution to your content, it never hurts to include existing quotes from experts - especially if you reach out to the people you feature to let them know.
2. Target Various Stages Of the Sales Funnel
A "sales funnel" is a way of describing how someone moves through the process of initially finding your brand, to becoming a customer.
How many stages a sales funnel has, and exactly what those stages are, will differ. In some funnels, the final stage is becoming a customer. In others, it might be becoming a repeat customer, or even a brand advocate.
Today I'm going to talk about a simple three-stage sales funnel: awareness, evaluation, and conversion.
Creating content that targets potential customers at each stage of this funnel achieves two key things:
At the awareness stage, the prospect knows they have a problem and they need something to fix it - they just don't know quite what it is they need.
To target those prospects, you need to create content around top-of-the-funnel search queries.
For example, let's say you offer task-tracking software that's designed to help companies organize projects and manage workloads.
Your first job would be to establish what triggers a need for your product.
I can think of two types of prospects who might search for a product of this type:
Prospect number two is already at stage two of the funnel. We'll talk about stage two in a moment.
Prospect number one is very much at the top (stage one) of the funnel. They might be asking questions like, "How can I streamline my internal processes?" or "How can I manage my employees' workloads?"
Your job is to create content that answers those questions, in hopes of engaging them and moving them through the funnel.
This could consist of creating educational content such as blog posts, ebooks, or videos.
At stage two (in this case, the middle of the funnel), the customer is aware of your product and understands it might help them, but knows they have options. They need to figure out if your product is the best fit for their needs.
At this point, your prospect wants to know things like:
Blog posts, videos, and even infographics can be effective here. You need to educate prospects on the merits of your product, without being pushy.
At the bottom of the funnel, prospects are pretty certain they want to buy from you; they just need that final push in the right direction.
Up until now, you will have avoided being pushy or salesy with your content. At the bottom of the funnel, this all goes out the window. You only goal here is to sell. Reviews, case studies, and even demonstration videos are key here.
Of course, no industry or company is exactly the same, and your funnel might look very different from the one discussed. It doesn't really matter what your funnel looks like; you just need to ensure you're reaching the maximum number of B2B customers by creating content that targets them at every stage.
3. Tell Your Customers' Stories
Each of your customers has a story to tell, and utilizing these stories in your content gives it a definite edge.
Most of us look for social proof in every area of our lives. We want to be reassured that we're making the right decisions.
That's where your customers' stories come in.
What I'm talking about here goes far beyond case studies. A case study focuses on a specific incident or activity, like how a business solved a customer's problem.
Case studies are invaluable. But when it comes to content marketing, there's so much more you can do with your customers' stories.
Remember, your customers have stories that current and prospective customers could learn from, stories that will demonstrate how others are using and thriving with your product.
An effective customer story doesn't have to say they did x with your product and it helped them achieve y. A story that focuses on the amazing things a customer has achieved can promote your product without even mentioning it - the insinuation is always there that your product played a part in their success.
There's no reason B2B content marketing should be any harder or less successful than content marketing in B2C industries. You're still reaching people - you just need to reach them in different ways.
What other tips do you have for reaching B2B customers with content marketing? Let me know in the comments below: